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ancient Inca recording device using knotted cords, 1704, from Quechua quipu "knot."
an Incan accounting apparatus consisting of a long rope from which hung 48 secondary cords and various tertiary cords attached to the secondary ones. Knots were made in the cords to represent units, tens, and hundreds; and, in imperial accounting, the cords were differently coloured to designate the different concerns of government-such as tribute, lands, economic productivity, ceremonies, and matters relating to war and peace. The quipus were created and maintained as historical records and were kept not only by high officials at the capital of Cuzco-judges, commanders, and important heads of extended families-but also by regional commanders and village headmen.